The Funeral Makers by Cathie Pelletier
It’s 1959 and Marge McKinnon is dying in the tiny logging town of Mattagash, Maine. She’s got beriberi, which she contracted after years of eating only rice. But this story isn’t really about her. It’s about the crazy family who gather around her deathbed to pay their last respects and the shenanigans they get up to while she’s passing.
Her sister Pearl, who left town and married a big-city funeral director, comes back with her son and daughter-in-law and their three bratty kids in a trailer, which narrowly misses getting burned up while they’re still traveling. Her other sister, Sicily, lives in town with her husband Ed, the school principal, who is keeping company with a kooky exotic dancer named Violet La Forge. Sicily’s just-barely-teenage daughter, Amy Joy, is moony for a man twice her age from the very wrong side of the tracks and seems to be teetering on the edge of premature womanhood. The two sisters have not seen eye to eye in quite some time, but are determined to be there for each other in this most somber of times. The family reunites in the way that only family can, which is hilariously.
The book was touching, perceptive, and occasionally dark, but written with a humorous and forgiving tone. It’s impossible not to care about her cast of flawed, yet endearing, characters.
This is a reprint of a title that has been out of print for some time, originally published in 1986. It’s a great return for a fun read – and there are several more novels about Mattagash coming back into print in case the reader is looking for more!
Order in Bibz.